Leaving comments on blogs is an old-school search engine optimization technique…but is it still effective in this social media world, where most of the conversation has moved off the blogs and onto Facebook or Twitter?
The answer is yes!
More than ever, leaving comments on blogs is a good strategy for building up your social web influence, improving your SEO efforts and driving more business your way.
That’s why I wanted to share with you some of the things that I’ve learned about commenting, SEO and the social web over the last year and how you can leverage them.
How commenting makes you more influential
First off, leaving comments will help you reach out to people, making you more influential. How else could you connect with a blogger or thought leader if not by contributing consistently on his or her blog through the comments? Those bloggers see that you are reading what they write, and a good comment lets them know that you spent time writing it.
So, before you send a cold request to someone about posting as a guest on his or her blog or asking for some other favor, invest several weeks into commenting. That way, when you approach your bloggers, they will know you are legit, serious and can add value.
Of course, that means you can’t leave links that are irrelevant to the blog or conversation. You need to leave links that will improve the discussion.
SEO, social layering and commenting
One of the latest developments in SEO is the social aspect. With the introduction of Search Plus Your World and Google+, Google has made social networks a core part of search ranking.
And it’s my belief that commenting on blogs is a vital part of this social layering. In fact, you could get more clout with Google by having more articles on your blog, writing guest posts, contributing to question and answer sites like Quora, and, of course, leaving more comments.
Google likes it when you contribute to the social web. So let’s look at a commenting strategy that will boost your social influence and improve your search ranking.
Understand the blogger
Your first step in your commenting strategy is to figure out where you are going to post. You are probably busy and don’t have time to comment on hundreds of blogs. Instead, you need to be strategic about where you comment because you could waste your time leaving comments on blogs that don’t really carry any social weight.
Look for blogs that are worthwhile to comment on. If you get a link back from them, it will actually mean something.
Use Google’ doubleclick planner to help you select some good blogs/bloggers:
Then choose from the list:
If some of these blogs are multi-author, you may want to choose one or two authors to follow instead of trying to comment on every author’s posts.
But before you jump into leaving comments on a blog, study that blogger. Read a bunch of his or her posts to see what that person is like.
How do they write? What is their style? What do they care about?
Understand the commenting community
Next, read through a bunch of comments on the blog, and read through all the comments on the post you are thinking about responding to. You should even read some of the comments from the past.
What is the community like? Are they friendly? Sarcastic? Mean? Smart? Will you be getting in over your head if you leave a comment?
You may actually realize after reading the comments that you don’t want to contribute to that discussion or blog, so this step is important when it comes to figuring out where you are going to post.
Use an authentic identity
One of the things you will have to figure out early is your commenting identity. If you are new to the commenting game, the temptation may be to remain anonymous or actually use some avatar and symbolic name.
However, the best practice if you are a professional and plan on making a serious go at this to emphasize your online presence is to use your authentic identity.
That means posting your first and last name and a real photo. Here’s an example:
Remember, this is all tied into your social search strategy, and it will also build credibility with the community you are about to contribute to.
Here’s a tip for you: use Gravatar to manage your online contribution profile. This allows you to pull the same image across the web as you comment on different blogs.
Read through all the comments
To avoid simply repeating something someone else already said, take the time to read through all of the comments. Most sites don’t have hundreds of comments, so this will not be too hard.
But it’s okay to scan through the comments if there are hundreds…the point is to make sure you understand what is being discussed.
You can lose credibility if you post a comment that repeats a prior comment or if you ask a question that has already been answered.
Don’t take that risk!
Besides, you may find that your comment might be better posted in the thread of a side discussion. In fact, you may find that you can provide more than one comment on the post based upon what other people are discussing on side threads.
How much should you write?
There are no hard and fast rules about how much you should write in a comment except to say that you should be clear, concise and compelling.
I like to think about it in terms of sales copywriting: it never asks “Is it too long?” It asks “Is it interesting enough?”
Keep in mind that short comments tend to get overlooked, especially if there are dozens or more comments.
So, really, there are two strategies to getting attention when it comes to how much you should write and to standing out:
- Write a long comment.
- Write several short-to-medium-sized comments on the same blog post.
Both will get you attention.
Another strategy is to simply write a post on your blog in response to the original post. This will help you if you want to drive traffic to your site because the original author may decide to link to your post by updating his or her own.
You can draw more attention to the post you wrote by leaving a comment on the original post, saying something like,
“You know, this post really got me thinking…that’s why I decided to respond in a post.”
The blogger will appreciate the link to his or her site and probably return the favor by linking to yours.
You can also offer to write a guest post in response to the original post. Just email the blogger, lay out your argument or submit an outline for the post and then offer to write it.
He or she may go for this since you will be the one providing content…and not the blogger!
Number of links you should leave
I would never leave more than one link to my own site in a comment. That would just seem too self-promotional. If you are going to link to someone else, two links is probably the maximum I would leave.
This is kind of tricky, though, because by default, WordPress filters comments with two or more links as spam, so your comment may get holed up in that folder…and possibly never be seen.
It’s better to use HTML code to make your links into anchor texts:
than to simply drop the URL and not have rich anchor text links:
Some moderators are even more aggressive, making just one link drop too many, sending it into moderation or spam.
If you notice that your comment didn’t get approved, email the blogger, apologize and see if the blogger can release it.
Promote your comment on the social web
Finally, if you contributed a comment to a blog post, share it on your social media accounts.
Bloggers don’t mind it when you promote your comment…because you are also promoting their blog post too; so it’s a win-win!
In the end, a well-executed commenting strategy can build your reputation and influence in a community. This strategy will have natural benefits like more followers in the social web and even business opportunities.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest excuses when it comes to a commenting strategy is the lack of time. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any tips on how to overcome that hurdle.
You just have to do it. And don’t worry about checking if your comment links are followed or nofollowed… it’ll vary from blog to blog. Just write great comments as that’s what drives traffic, and some of the links will get picked up.
What commenting tips have helped you in your SEO rankings or online social influence?